How Singaporeans should protect themselves against unemployment

How Singaporeans should protect themselves against unemployment

If you've been freaking out about getting retrenched thanks to this year's economic outlook, well, things aren't going to get better anytime soon. The government recently announced that unemployment benefits and redundancy insurance have no place in Singapore. In layman's terms, that means that if you get retrenched, you're on your own, good luck!

While 9 in 10 companies supposedly pay workers retrenchment benefits, the likelihood of highly trained middled aged PMETs quickly replacing their lost income is discouragingly low, and if you're one of the unlucky 10 per cent who fall through the cracks and do not receive retrenchment benefits, you're royally screwed.

Before anything bad can happen (touch wood!), it's a good idea to take these steps to protect yourself should the worst occur.

Ensure you have a larger emergency fund

If you get retrenched and you don't have an emergency fund or adequate savings, you're in big trouble. This is a situation that could see you swiftly fall into crazy debt that might haunt you for years even after you do manage to find another job.

While according to traditional wisdom your emergency fund should contain 3 to 6 months' of your monthly expenses, if you're at high risk of being retrenched (particularly if you're a middle aged PMET who's going to find it hard to quickly find another job), it's a good idea to aim for the high end of that scale, or even bump it up to 12 months' worth.

Only about half of the retrenched middle aged PMETs in this recent report managed to find jobs within 6 months, and it wasn't even indicated if these jobs they managed to replace their previous incomes or if their new jobs involved them driving a taxi.

That means that even with 6 months' worth of monthly expenses saved up, there's an almost 50 per cent chance you'll run out of money before you find another job.

You want to make sure when calculating your monthly expenses that you factor in the cost of everything from utilities bills to insurance premiums and beyond. Basically, every single thing you spend on should be included, unless you intend to cut off your electricity and live in darkness or shower in rainwater till you get a new job.

Ensure you have passive income streams

If your job is your only form of income, once it gets cut off you'll be desperate. Finding other streams of income gives you a lot more security in the face of retrenchment.

One way of obtaining a passive income stream is to take on a side job like giving tuition, maintaining a small business or doing freelance consulting or other work outside of your regular employment.

But that takes a lot of effort, which turns off people whose lives are already so consumed by work that they don't actually have free time.

Luckily, there are other ways to earn passive income, especially if you've been working for some time and have investments or property. Investment income like stock dividends are a popular way for mid-career professionals or retirees to earn some extra cash, as is renting out a room in their homes.

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Take every opportunity to upgrade yourself

Let's say the worst happens and you actually do get retrenched. How you spend your time immediately after retrenchment can have an impact on how easily you get reemployed.

Ideally, you'll use all your newly-found spare time to upgrade yourself and boost your employability as much as possible. Use your Skills Future credit to pick up new skills, especially in emerging industries.

There might have been a good reason you were retrenched-your current job was becoming obsolete or your skillset had failed to keep up with the times. Unless something changes, you're not going to get reemployed that easily.

It is important to start retraining yourself the moment you start feeling insecure about your job or get wind of a possible retrenchment, as the longer you wait the harder it is to get back into the industry, since a long gap of unemployment sends a message to employers that you're now out of touch.

However bad things might seem, this could be what you need to carve out the time necessary to really turn yourself into an employable person.

To know in which direction you should be upgrading yourself, it can be helpful to look at the skillsets of younger employees in your company. These are the people who will be taking over your work when you're gone, and who have the benefit of being more in tune with the latest developments in the market than you are.

For instance, the job scope of executives in marketing today often requires a strong understanding of digital marketing, social media and SEO.

If you've been in marketing for more than a decade, this may be an area you struggle with, but you can bet your bottom dollar that all those young upstarts fresh out of uni are going to begin honing their proficiencies in digital the minute they enter the working world.

It's up to you to keep up, or get eliminated.

This article first appeared on MoneySmart


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